Andromeda unbound

Fleur Doidge
21 October, 2007
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The Andromeda of ancient Greek legend was a beautiful girl chained to the cliffs at the mercy of a passing sea monster. Yet this Australian developer namesake is aiming at a hero role.

Stanton Ryan’s first computer was an Apple Macintosh Plus, and although he has since had to develop cross-platform skills and use them to effect, he still regards working on a PC as working on the “dark side”. Today, Stanton Ryan is the director of a Melbourne-based developer of specialist software called Andromeda Educational Software (AESoftware).

You might never have heard of the company, but it’s been chalking up scores in various vertical markets — particularly education and finance — at home and abroad. Questions forwarded to the company were fielded by Zeus Marketing’s Janice Ryan, who is also Stanton Ryan’s wife. She sent us a prepared statement in response to our request for an interview.

Ryan said Andromeda Educational Software was created in 1997 as a joint venture between Dr Harry Wright — now retired as a director of the company — and Stanton Ryan. Wright had just quit a role as head of Heinz food science and Stanton Ryan was a young, independent software developer, she said.

Wright told us, via Zeus Marketing, “After I retired from Heinz I was very interested in developing software which would make it easy to analyse a person’s diet. I taught myself some programming and used these skills to also develop something to manage my share portfolio on my Apple Mac.”

Janice Ryan said that Wright had taught himself software programming to develop a food analysis program — something he felt would be really useful in demonstrating the nutritional value of a person’s daily food intake. Then he used his new-found programming skills to develop a basic software program to manage his own share portfolio on his Mac Plus because there was nothing on the market for Macs.

“Ten years earlier while I was running a Council of Adult Education course on food science I met a young programmer, Stanton Ryan, who was interested in nutrition. We later met up at a software conference and got talking about the products I had developed,” Wright said.

“We felt that both these programs had commercial potential. The food analysis program would be great for use in schools and universities as a teaching aid. Students would be able to see exactly how the nutritional content of each food affected their overall diet.”

That chance meeting at the software conference later on resulted in a decision that Stanton Ryan would rewrite both of Wright’s programs from scratch — using the earlier versions as models. The duo spent the next 18 months working on the two programs, mostly at Wright’s house, until they felt they had two good products. FoodScan and ShareManager were launched then on the market.

AESoftware’s web site describes ShareManager as a share portfolio management system suitable for private share owners or portfolio managers. It has been written especially for Australian conditions and has been updated to include GST legislation.

The other flagship product, FoodScan, is pitched as the ideal food analysis program for professionals and students. AESoftware claims it is now used “widely” by nutritionists, educators and industry to show the nutrients in foods — even on a daily basis — and show how to improve one’s diet.

FoodScan targets nutrition specialists or researchers who want fast access to data on some 1100 foods and recipes, according to AESoftware’s web site.

“Harry had done some great work and it was a good next step for me,” Stanton Ryan told AMW in a statement. “I was working on several database projects for my own clients but developing products for sale would take me in a new direction.”
Janice Ryan added that although Wright still takes a keen interest in the development of the business. He also helps with product support, answering the more difficult ShareManager questions, she said.

According to her, ShareManager is still the only Australian portfolio management application that runs on the Mac operating system, though it also runs on PCs. Although the potential customer pool of investors who work on Macs is no doubt small, customers say ShareManager is easy to use. “Most users are up and running immediately,” Janice Ryan said.

ShareManager suits both private investors and portfolio managers because it can handle multiple portfolios and can handle virtually any number of transactions, Stanton Ryan said. “Apart from keeping a compete record of all transactions, users can see how their portfolio is performing, track dividends and print end of year summaries and a variety of reports. It provides ‘what if?’ sales projections and calculates profit and loss. It is invaluable for preparing tax information and ensuring compliance.”

No junk. AESoftware’s other main gambit, FoodScan, is used in Australian universities as a teaching aid and has been sold to “hundreds” of secondary schools, nutritionists and dieticians in Australia and New Zealand, the Ryans said.

“Foodscan uses the analysis of some 4500 foods provided by ANZFA (Australian & New Zealand Food Authority) and government data on RDIs (Recommended Daily Intake) to provide an easy way to log daily food intake and analyse individual nutrition,” explained Stanton Ryan.

“With so much junk food about, it’s very important that children are educated about food. I’m proud of FoodScan in that it clearly shows that it doesn’t take much to throw your diet’s balance out. Anything that helps kids understand what’s in food is a good thing,” Wright said.

FoodScan uses graphs to show how the diet can be improved by raising or reducing the intake of specific foods. Secondary schools use the program in food technology classes. Students record their own food intake over several days and then analyse their diet to see what they are having too much of and what they are missing, the Ryans said.

Universities use FoodScan to help train dieticians and nutritionists. And private practitioners use FoodScan to assess diets and make recommendations, they said. Both products are supported via e-mail or phone.

“We, happily, work primarily in a Mac environment,” said Stanton Ryan. “We have not been plagued by viruses or support issues, and the architecture is rock solid. Our many enthusiastic users all seem to love their Macs. To be honest, we could have done more with these products — there never seems to be enough time!”

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